THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
Hey, everyone. This is Miriam Schulman, your host of The Inspiration Place podcast. You’re listening to episode number 35, and today we’re talking all about how to build your creative confidence so you don’t let fear stand in the way of your inspiration. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I don’t feel like a real artist,” don’t fret. You know what? We’ve all thought that at one time or another. It’s also known as imposter syndrome, and a variation of that is usually it goes something like this. “Who am I to sell my art? Who am I to teach an online class? Who am I to sell my art at Surtex,” or “I’m not ready yet.” You ever say that to yourself? “I’m not ready yet”? And here’s another version of that fear. “What will they think?”
Clinical psychologist Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes were the first to name the imposter phenomenon. In 1978, their study, The Imposter Phenomenon in High-Achieving Women, focused on women who had earned their PhD. These are pretty smart women and were respected for their achievements in their chosen fields, or were students who excelled. However, despite the high performance of the women in the study, these researchers found that these women attributed their success to luck or didn’t believe in their own intelligence, and were convinced that they fooled everyone who thought they were gifted. In fact, I hear this from one of my colleagues. I’m not going to call her out on this, but she’s always saying, “Oh, I was so lucky,” and I have to remind her, “You weren’t lucky. You worked hard. You weren’t lucky. You are talented. You weren’t lucky. You are consistent.” I mean, it’s great to feel lucky and feel gratitude, but never underestimate your own abilities and your own accomplishments.
In social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence, she quoted Clance who said, “If I could do it all over again, I would call it imposter experience rather than imposter syndrome, because it’s not a syndrome or a complex or a mental illness. It’s something almost everyone experiences. Reframing this as an experience suggests that this is an experience shared by many, and there is nothing wrong with you if you feel this way.” Now, I actually asked Rebecca Bass-Ching, who’s a therapist and CEO and founder of Potentia Family Therapy what she thought about women suffering more from imposter syndrome than men. Now, she disagreed. She said, “I believe both men and women struggle with imposter syndrome. They just may show it differently. Traditionally, women are more inclined to reach out and ask for help, so it may seem like more women are naming their struggles with imposter syndrome because it is more acceptable.”
She explained that shame and a scarcity mindset are at the heart of imposter syndrome. If you want to hear more about what she thinks, there is one of my most popular episodes. It’s called Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, where I interview Rebecca. It’s episode number six of the podcast, and I’ll be sure to link that in the show notes. She also shared if anyone dares to push growth edges and put themselves out of their comfort zone, then these protective narratives will always show up. No one is immune. No one is exempt. All right. Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about artists who struggle with imposter syndrome. Many artists struggle with imposter syndrome at one time or another. It’s inevitable, especially if you’re self-taught. Let’s talk about that. For example, popular artist Kelly Rae Roberts, she calls herself an accidental artist and struggled with imposter syndrome in the beginning of her career.
Kelly Rae Roberts:
Once I started identifying as an artist, the imposter syndrome came after I’d faced all these fears, which I thought was really interesting. Now that I was having some visual success, getting some interest and getting some traction, that’s when I started struggling heavily with that feeling of being found out, and that people were going to realize sooner than later that I have no idea what I’m doing.
If you fear people will discover you have no idea what you’re doing and are even a fraud, that is imposter syndrome in its clearest iteration. But it’s also a symptom of you lacking in your confidence, which is why I named this episode Building Your Creative Confidence rather than really overcoming imposter syndrome. If you’re really interested in this topic, like I said, definitely check out the episode I did with Rebecca Bass-Ching, and also check out the episode I did with Denise Jacobs on banishing our inner critic. But let’s talk about these artists. Let’s talk about Kelly Rae Roberts. Getting experience under Roberts’ belt helped her deal with imposter syndrome. Quote, “I have some solid practices now, but at the beginning of my career, imposter syndrome was pretty intense,” she said. “I faced a lot of fears to even become an artist, and then once I started identifying as an artist, imposter syndrome came back.” Unquote. Roberts isn’t surprised that more women suffer from the syndrome. She says, quote-
Kelly Rae Roberts:
We’re told to blend in, be polite, don’t ruffle any feathers, and being an artist is ruffling feathers. It’s having a voice.
“Being an artist is having a voice. It’s having an opinion. As artists, we break the rules. Women especially struggle with that,” she said. But what do we do about it? Especially in this age of social media, which completely leaves everyone to comparison despair. In fact, since November, when my iPhone was tracking exactly how much time I spent at my phone, I decided to put limitations on my social media scrolling time. I actually have limited my Instagram to only 15 minutes a day, and that includes the time that I spend posting things on my Instastories. I don’t have to use willpower to do this. My phone automatically shuts off Instagram after 15 minutes. It will ask me if I want to ignore that limit or extend it for the day, but I’ve turned over that control over to the phone so that I’m not tempted.
Now, I bring this up because ever since I started doing this, it has definitely helped me. It’s helped me paint more. It’s helped me get less depressed about what the popular girls are doing and how many more likes they get than me. I just don’t even have the time in that 15-minute bandwidth to get obsessed or to be checking those kinds of things. The feeling of not being good enough is exasperated by social media, especially once you grow a large following like Kelly Rae Roberts. Now, she has around 50,000 Facebook likes and around 32,000 Instagram followers, so that’s a lot. She says, quote, “A lot of people probably do think that I have no idea what I’m doing, or I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing,” she said. Quote, “Oh, you’d be surprised at the emails and the social media comments that we get.” Unquote.
What we’re saying, both Kelly and myself, is what happens is once you get to that big numbers, it’s not just your friends and family anymore who are following you. When you get around 50,000 Facebook likes, you are attracting a lot of people and also a lot of haters. There’s people who idolize you to the point of hating you, or they’re jealous of you because they’re jealous of that success, and because they see how big you are, they want to knock you down. Kelly’s followers are very open about telling her everything they don’t like about her artwork. At the same time, it’s easy to look at other’s success and think you don’t measure up, which creates feelings of envy. At the time I had this conversation with Kelly, she actually had stopped following her own friends because it became a bit of a problem for her. I also spoke to another artist, Mystele Kirkeeng of mystele.com. She doesn’t enjoy it when she feels envious of another’s success. She wants to be able to celebrate others’ good fortune. She says-
Yeah, because I can feel that envy inside. That’s so not healthy. I also want to be able to be okay with other people having success because that’s where they are in their lives. If that envy is going to darken any part of my heart, then I need to step back and learn to let go of that, so I have unfollowed and then re-followed people for that.
I just need that space.
That was Mystele Kirkeeng of mystele.com, who I recently also spoke to about her feelings of confidence. If comparison despair makes your jealousy creep in, it may be time to take a break from the seduction of social media, focus on yourself, and stop looking at others. Or do what I do, and just put a limit on it. It’s okay to be on Instagram. It’s okay to be on Facebook, but use it as a tool and don’t let it suck you in to the vortex of comparison despair. This wouldn’t be an Inspiration Place podcast if I didn’t give you actionable steps for overcoming imposter syndrome and building your creative confidence, so let’s talk about some ways you can generate positive emotion for yourself and build confidence for yourself. If you have a feeling you’re not good enough, let’s talk about some strategies that you can use.
Strategy number one, embrace your artist identity. If you feel that sense coming on that you’re a fraud or that you’re not good enough, take comfort first of all that you’re not alone, and then work on reframing your mindset. After all, just because you think it, doesn’t make it true. Sometimes these thoughts are just stories that we make up in our mind. They’re not facts. They’re thoughts, and thoughts lead to feelings, and negative thoughts lead to negative thinking. Let’s talk about cleaning up your thoughts and how to embrace your artist identity. Kirkeeng, because she’s self-taught, will often feel that lack of confidence creeping in when speaking with art world, air quotes, insiders. She shared-
If I’m in a conversation with an artist who has gone to art school and they’re talking about artsy, heady stuff, I won’t be able to keep up. And I don’t actually care that I can’t keep up, but there are pockets of a lack of information that I know I have, which is kind of why I did that little class with this guy. But at the same time, I know that I am good at what I do, and that’s enough validation for me to keep doing it. At the end of the day, I feel fine being me and living in my space in the art world.
But let’s talk about how you embrace your artist identity. Call yourself an artist. Don’t be afraid. When people say, “Do you paint?” you don’t have to say, “It’s my hobby. I dabble in it.” Say, “Yes, I’m an artist.” It doesn’t matter if you’ve gone to art school or not. Both Mystele and Kelly Rae, and myself, all three of us, not one of us went to art school. Not one of us has a Master’s in Fine Arts, and yet all three of us are making art livings as professional artists. And by the way, just because you don’t make living as an artist, doesn’t mean you’re not an artist either. I truly believe that anyone who makes art is an artist. Be willing to call yourself an artist.
All right, we’re moving on to strategy number two. Commit to creating consistent, original artwork. When you are suffering from self-confidence, the best way to overcome that is by taking action. You’re not going to find confidence by scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest. You’re not going to find it by looking at pictures or by listening to stories. The only way you’re going to build your confidence is by taking action and by doing it. If the problem is you don’t feel like a real artist, create art. That’s the definition of being a real artist. Honor your creativity and place art-making above all else.
All right, we’re moving on to strategy number three, create in a series. Sometimes when you finally do make time to paint, you can get stuck not knowing what to paint next, not knowing what to do, because either you have so many ideas you can’t pick one, or you’re not sure what’s going to work, and you’re living in the future, in the future fears, or you’re living in the past with past failures. Let’s talk about how creating a series can build your confidence. When you build in a series, it eliminates decision-making. The less decisions you have to make, the more likely you are to paint. If you say to yourself, “Okay, this week I’m only painting flowers,” that works, or whatever it is your theme is going to be. That’s why in the Inspired Insider’s Club, we focus on themes.
For example, in winter of, I think it was 2019 in January, we were focusing on winter woodlands. That really helped me not only design a course that felt cohesive, but create a collection that was cohesive, and it took away a lot of decision-making for me. Then when we were done with that series, I chose the country critters series to do with my art students. So again, working on a tightly based theme. When this podcast comes out in April, we’ll still be working on country critters. I’m not sure if the Insider’s Club will be open then, but you can always add your name to the waitlist. You can go to schulmanart.com/join and just enter your name and email, and you can add yourself to the Inspired Insider’s Club waitlist.
All right, the next strategy I would encourage you to do, strategy number four, is to dress like an artist. This is also an approach that people have, like having an alter ego. There’s a reason why performers get dressed up when they go on stage, because it builds confidence, or why we put on a certain outfit to play tennis or spin or whatever it happens to be. These things are putting us in the mood to work out and putting on a persona. Think about Superman, Clark Kent. He didn’t just take off his glasses. He had to put on a whole costume to become Superman, or any of those superheroes, including Wonder Woman. I always thought it was silly that people couldn’t recognize that it was the same person just because they had their superhero cape on, but once they don their superhero persona, it wasn’t just the outfit that had changed. Their whole attitude had changed. They developed a much more confident and assertive attitude.
So how can you do that as an artist? Clothing is an important part of owning your self-concept as an artist, and combating imposter syndrome and building your confidence. Like I said, you would not exercise in jeans and a blouse. Although, by the way, my 85-year-old father-in-law, he actually does exercise in his jeans, but most people don’t. You put on a tennis outfit to play tennis, and it’s the same thing with painting. Tie on your apron, and that is your superhero cape. When I’m procrastinating doing my artwork in the studio, as soon as I put my apron on, I know that I mean business.
By the way, whenever I do my live streams or webinars, we’ve been giving away a free Inspiration Place apron, so that is definitely a reason to come to my live streams or my master classes. If you want to purchase an apron, I will have that in the show notes. They’re priced really low. I really don’t make much money off of them. They ship directly to you from Cafe Press, and it’s just a chance for you to don a little swag. Kelly Rae Roberts, who we’ve been speaking to in this episode, creates an entire ritual around getting dressed. She says, quote-
Kelly Rae Roberts:
I call it wearing my joy, which is like being conscious of what’s in my heart and what’s in my inner landscape and my inner world, and making that visible. A lot of times, I think so many of us are unconscious about our adorning our bodies, even just in everyday world. If you start tuning in if like, “Why am I even wearing black? I don’t even like black. I’m wearing black because it makes me skinny,” [inaudible 00:21:04] versus, “Who do I admire in the world? Oh, it turns out I admire the artists. I admire people who wear colors and who wear boots and whatever.” Just start looking at people you admire.
Start looking at people you admire who are living their lives in a way that is in direct opposition of being afraid. Getting dressed every day is an opportunity to make ceremony every morning. You’re making these choices consciously or unconsciously that feed your visual world and how others perceive you. I love wearing bright colors because bright colors and bright patterns instantly change my mood. In fact, there is a fantastic book that I started reading recently called Joyful by Ingrid Fetell, I believe. I’ll make sure that’s linked in the show notes as well. She talks exactly about this, how wearing colors is going to improve your mood versus wearing black. Of course, if wearing black makes you feel more like an artist, fine. Go for it. But if you’re feeling sad and that’s holding you back from creating, put on a happy color. Put on coral, put on red, put on pink, and see what it does to your mood, and see what it does for your confidence.
All right, we’re ready for strategy number five. This is create an alter ego. You step into an alter ego so that you feel like a real artist. Believe it or not, Beyonce has been known to rely on her alter ego named Sasha Fierce. When she performs, she imagines it’s Sasha Fierce performing. Apparently, many performers, tennis players, and musicians also create these alter egos. When you become this other person when you perform or paint so that you can step into that with confidence, it’s someone else who is also you. You know I’m a voracious reader, and there’s one more book that I’m going to just throw in here. I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet, but it’s by Todd Herman, and he is actually one of the first people that I had learned about this alter ego effect. I think the book is actually called The Alter Ego Effect. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. It’s a brand new book. I think it came out in February 2019. Again, we will link to the book in the show notes.
Also, I do have on my website schulmanart.com/bookclub. That’s where I post links to all of the books that I recommend and books of my guests, and I only have on guests whose books I have read and truly believe in. So you can check out schulmanart.com/bookclub if you want to see any of these books we’re mentioning now as well as these other books. But creating an alter ego is effective. I don’t actually use that technique myself, but my daughter who plays cello has come up with an alter ego that has helped her during audition process.
All right, strategy number six. This is one that really works for me. Any of you who have taken my Painting With Words course know this, which is my art journal course. Use mantras and affirmations. Lack of confidence or imposter syndrome or inner critic, all those things, they’re really just different forms of fear, and an affirmation or mantra can be used to help overcome fear. It can be as simple as, “I am an artist.” One of my favorite affirmations is to look in the mirror every day and say, “This is what an artist look like.” Another one I like, I learned from Denise Duffield Thomas. She says to say this as your affirmation. “It’s my time, and I’m ready for the next step.” If you’re thinking to yourself, “Who am I to do this?” flip it on its head. Your affirmation should be, “Who am I not to do this?” If you’re thinking, “Oh, everyone has done this,” yes, but it hasn’t been done by you. So why not you? That’s a very powerful affirmation.
All right. We’re coming to the last strategy, strategy number seven. This is get curious and have compassion. Instead of judging your feelings of being an imposter or your lack of confidence, Bass-Ching suggests getting curious and having compassion towards those feelings. When you genuinely seek to understand the fears or concerns that are breeding your feelings of self-doubt, this part often relaxes and helps your inner critic transform into an inner cheerleader. Just remember, when you were a child, you would pick up that crayon or that brush of tempura paint. Remember those paints at the easel? None of us, when we were in kindergarten, said, “I can’t do coloring page, because I’m not a real artist!” No. We just picked up that crayon and went to work, so love that inner child and work on bringing that back to your art process.
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Hey there. If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out the Inspired Insiders Club. It’s my monthly membership program where you get inspiration from me. Every month, I share with you techniques that I use my own art or drawing and painting in both watercolor and mixed media. Plus, each month we meet live. We talk about inspiration and ideas for how to make the art in your own style, and you get to ask me questions or even get critiqued on your art. If you’re feeling stuck in your art, and your goal for 2019 is to unleash greater creativity or to spend more time painting, but you need a little help creating that habit, then the Inspired Insiders Club will help you get there. Come join me over at schulmanart.com. That’s schulmanart, with a C, .com/join. I’d love to have you join me in the Inspired Insider’s Club. See you there.
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